UKC

Grit Blocs Review

© Vertebrate Publishing

Psyche is something that's helpful to have in abundance, particularly in the UK where bagfuls of it are often required to get you through extended spells of shite weather. As a result of this, books such as Grit Blocs are a wise investment coming into the winter, because they'll lift the long (and often wet) nights and help to put those painful fingerboard sessions into perspective.

Grit Blocs features '100 of the finest problems on Pennine Gritstone', which must have been quite a stressful list to compile for its author - Dave Parry - as there's a lot of problems you could potentially include, spread across many different areas. The book features (to use the old school moniker) 'boulder problems' from across six counties - Northumberland, County Durham, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. It would have been easy to make something highly Peak-centric, but it's nice to see a wider area featured and celebrated, as it makes for a much better book. The breadth of coverage may also encourage people to tear themselves away from the familiar and head somewhere slightly different.

 Dave's unbelievably gorgeous landscape photography is an absolute delight

The other interesting thing about the book is that it doesn't always include the problems you'd expect. Yes, there's a whole bunch of the classics, but alongside these are some obscurities and recent additions which look like they deserve the attention. I've absolutely no doubt that some will question what has and hasn't been included, but as we always say, surely part of the fun about books like this is debating what's made the cut.

A curveball or two is arguably in the author's interest, as it'll get people talking, and this works both ways. For instance, I was delighted to see The High Road (f3+) at Stanage included, as I've always felt it to be a massively underrated problem and a highly joyful experience to climb, but on the flipside I couldn't believe Phoenix wall (f7B+) was included, as I thought it was - in a word - crap. I've no doubt that there'd be an article to write on what Dave didn't get around to including and who knows, maybe we'll publish one, as it'd be interesting to hear the dilemmas he had along the way to publishing the book. No doubt he had some sleepless nights thinking about it!

Amongst the 100 problems are a whole load of bonus problems, as each chapter tends to feature photographs of other problems alongside the main one that it's focused on. Sometimes this can lead to a bit of confusion, particularly where the main photograph isn't of the problem that the chapter is actually about (e.g. the DIY chapter's main photograph is actually of Deliverance, which just looks a bit odd). This isn't the end of the world, but feels a bit counter-intuitive. Another quirk is that none of these other problems feature grades alongside them. I'm not sure whether this is a conscious decision in order not to make the book too grade-centric, but it would have been really useful to have the grades displayed, simply so that when you're scanning through you know whether or not you might be able to climb it.

Grade-wise the book has problems from 3+ to 8B, but it's weighted towards the harder end, with more 7s and 8s than there are 5s and 6s. Given that there's a significantly greater number of people operating in the lower echelons I'd question that split, as much of Grit Blocs is out of reach to the more casual climber. However, there is obviously a large element of the aspirational to it, because whilst people may not be able to climb these grades they may still be interested in the stories and photography that come alongside them.

Grit Blocs grades range  © UKC Gear
Grit Blocs grades range

On that note, Dave's writing is something I have always enjoyed, not least because of his exceptionally dry sense of humour. His 'Climbing Gossip' column in the BMC Peak Area Newsletter was a thing of legend and frequently brought about genuine laugh out loud moments. Grit Blocs is cut from a similar cloth and makes a highly entertaining read.

Grit Blocs has definitely got me psyched for the gritstone bouldering season. Here's a few places and problems that the guide has particularly piqued my interest in:

  • West Nab - I remember reading somewhere that this was somewhere that the author took a shine to, and everyone I know who's been there has said it's amazing - it's just that not many people seem to go!
  • Grinah and Barrow Stones - I've been meaning to go here for years, but never seem to get around to it, so really need to remedy this sometime next spring.
  • Poetry in Motion (f6A), Rylstone - I feel somewhat embarrassed to admit I've never been to Rylstone, but this 6B looks like as good an excuse to go as any... not that I really needed one.
  • Great Roova Crag - I should really make a pact with myself to visit at least one moorland grit crag each year, because they always deliver something special and I've no doubt that Great Roova would do exactly that.
  • Great Wolfrey - this is my own personal curveball, as it's not actually featured in the guide, but it's somewhere I've always wanted to check out.

Summary

As you can probably tell, I absolutely loved Grit Blocs. While it includes a whole host of problems I'll likely never climb, that hasn't stopped me enjoying reading about them, not least because of Dave's unique dry writing style. The breadth and range of the coverage encourages you to explores places you might not have otherwise thought about, which is something I'd encourage all climbers to do - not least because there's so much good climbing out there. The only caveat I'd offer is that due to the way in which the grades are weighted, there's going to be less that's of direct relevance if you're operating in the 5s and 6s than if you're up there in the 7s and 8s. All-in-all though, this is a model that I'd love to see Vertebrate extend to other areas across the UK, as it'd be great to see each showcased within a book such as this.

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Add Climb name Grade Crag name
 NORTH PENNINES
Blood Sportf8A+ Shaftoe Crags
Jumping Jack Flashf6A+ **Goldsborough Carr
George's Rooff7C+ Goldsborough Carr
 YORKSHIRE
Auroraf7A Great Roova Crag
Steve's Wallf5 **Slipstones
Lay-By Aretef7B+ ***Slipstones
Cypherf8B ***Slipstones
The LashV10 Birk Gill Crag
Phoenix wallf7B+ **Panorama Crag...
Successor StateE4 6b *Brimham Rocks
Fluidef7C Crow Crag
Trustf7B **Nought Bank Boulders
Snaketongue Truffleclubf6C ***High Crag Guisecliff
Heaven In Your Handsf7C ***Brandrith
DamnationV11 ***Thruscross
Rhythmf8A+ **Sharp Haw and...
Molly Moocherf7A+ **Rylstone
Lanny Basshamf8A+ ***Rylstone
Poetry in Motionf6A Rylstone
Greg's Arête Rightf4+ Crookstones...
Jason's Rooff8A ***Crookrise
Ron's Crack IIf7A+ *Crookrise
Ill Gotten Gains Directf8A Eastby Crag
Victoria's Secretf7B+ ***Simon’s Seat
McNabf7B ***Lord's Seat
Bird Fluf6C Hen Stones
Hunter's Rooff7C ***Hunter's Stones
The Flying Aretef6B **Almscliff
Syrett's Rooff7A **Almscliff
Ben's Groovef7B *Caley Crags
High Fidelityf8B ***Caley Crags
The Geminid Trailf7A+ ***The Satellite...
Brownian Motionf8A+ ***West Chevin Boulders
Frankf8A Ilkley (Rocky...
Lager Lager Lager (Dave's Groove)f7C ***Earl Crag
The John Dunne Slapf6B *Earl Crag
Treebeardf7C Sutton
Vimf6A+ Shipley Glen
Red Baron Rooff7C+ **Shipley Glen
Gritty Shakerf7C ***Bell Bank Wood
Androsteronef7A Clattering Stones
Fight on Blackf7B Widdop
Chabalf8A+ Dicken Rocks /...
Needle of Dreamsf6C ***Scout Hut
Tony's Wallf7B+ **Mytholm Steep Quarry
Red Roosterf7C+ ***The Roost
 LANCASHIRE
Ouzel Thornf6B ***Thorn Crag
Bad Moon Risingf7B+ ***Thorn Crag
Mothership Reconnectionf7A+ ***Thorn Crag
The SquareV2 **Wilton 3
 PEAK DISTRICT
ArcheryV6 *West Nab
Fish Arête Sit-startV8 ***Wimberry Rocks
Casu Marzuf7C Wharncliffe Crags
Panopticonf7C+ ***Howshaw Tor
Perfect Porthole Problemf5+ ***Dovestone Tor
Master Kushf7C+ ***Rivelin Edge
Spikef7B ***Bamford Edge
Solomon Grundyf8A Stanage North
D.I.Y.f6B ***Stanage Plantation
Careless Torquef8A ***Stanage Plantation
The High Roadf3+ **Stanage Popular
West Side Storyf7B+ ***Burbage West
All Quiet on the Eastern Frontf6A+ ***Burbage North
Cleo's Edgef5+ ***Burbage North
Boyagerf7A+ **Burbage North
The Alliancef7A ***Burbage South Edge
Side-pull Archf5+ **Burbage South...
The Big Slabf4+ ***Higgar Tor
Technical Masterf6B ***Millstone Edge
Pet Cemeteryf7A+ ***Mother Cap and...
Les Grands Doigtsf7C **Froggatt Edge
Ill Behaviourf8B ***Froggatt Edge
Hot Toddyf7A *Froggatt Edge
The Art of White Hat Wearingf7B ***Curbar Edge
Smiling Buttressf8B ***Curbar Edge
Curbar Cornerf5 ***Curbar Edge
A Beagle Too Farf6B **Baslow Edge
I Like Ya Cut Gf7B+ Gardom's Edge
G-Thangf6B+ ***Gardom's Edge
Superblocf8A+ ***Gardom's Edge
HMS Daringf7B+ ***Birchen Edge
Darkthronef7B Duke's Seat...
Proper Ganderf7C ***Roaches Upper Tier
Hard Arêtef7A+ ***The Five Clouds
Finger of Fatef6B **The Five Clouds
Swivel Fingerf6B **The Five Clouds
Starlight and Stormf6C+ ***Hen Cloud
Charlie's Overhangf6B ***Newstones and...
Elephant's Earf4+ ***Newstones and...
Tierdrop f7A+ ***Ramshaw Rocks
Big Al Qaedaf7B ***Robin Hood's...
Egg Arêtef6B *Cratcliffe Tor
Brain Deadf6B+ ***Cratcliffe Tor
Brutal Arêtef7B ***Stanton Moor
Appliance Frictionf6B *Stanton in the Woods
BrainstormV10 Doll Tor
Dad's Arête (A Belly Full of Brad Berries)f7C ***Hillcar Wood
Salle Goosef7C+ ***Turningstone Edge
Velvet SilenceE6 6c ***Black Rocks
10 Es
203 stars


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As per the idea outlined within the review, I'm going to follow-up with Dave to see if we can get an article written on the problems/places that didn't make it into the book.

In the meanwhile, what problems would everyone else have liked to see included that weren't?

Answers on the back of a postcard...or perhaps more conveniently, this thread...

28 Oct, 2022

Frankly I don't care if I can't climb most of the problems, in the same way I can enjoy great tales on high mountains or hard routes that I will never climb. It's a book of love expressed wonderfully in words and images: a shared devotion to gritstone 'poetry'.

On an endless day, a victorious day, rebuff the bouldering artist.

28 Oct, 2022

when did British boulder problems become 'blocs' ?

28 Oct, 2022

One could argue from the beginning of UK graded bouldering, since UK tech grades came from font, via southern sandstone.

28 Oct, 2022

I'm going to call them Bloches

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